, Newburyport, MA

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December 6, 2013

A family paddle

Exploring a hidden gem: Amesbury's Meadowbrook Islands


After swerving and splashing our way up the long and narrow pond, we arrived at the east side of the islands, where a couple of young swans patrolled. Their bright white feathers and quiet grace stood out boldly against a nearby flock of darker, honking Canada geese.

Our boats rubbed the bottom in the shallow water as we broke through sheets of the season’s first ice that lined the islands’ shores. We chopped at it with our paddles and marveled at its newness. Soon, it will be old news, but as with every season change, each first is something to lament and something to savor. Unable to reach the island through the ice, we took the opportunity to teach our kids of the sun’s position and effect by paddling around to the west shore, where the sun has greater exposure.

There, with plenty of sunlit water and soft mud, we easily landed our canoes. The island was filled with tall oaks and shorter, scrubbier swamp maples. Bright red winter berries lined the shores, adding flair to golden brown grasses and gray, leafless limbs. We were only a half-mile from our start, but it felt worlds away.

We gathered our lunch and blanket and hiked into the brush in search of a clearing. It was picnic time! About 100 yards in, we laid our blanket over a soft bed of leaves and enjoyed a five-star lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with hot apple cider.

The time we spent together, in the privacy of such a uniquely secluded spot, is one I’ll long remember. I sat with my wife, watching our boys discover swan beds, trees chewed by beavers and the many red berries that lined the sunny side of the island. Equally interesting for us was watching the boys explore thorns, thickets and mud, of which there was plenty.

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